From Cocoa Works to Cocoa West

Illustration, aerial view, of large complex of factory buildings

The Cocoa Works in all its complexity, in times past

Previously, we were at the Cocoa Works development, the former Rowntree factory buildings facing Haxby Road. These are just part of what used to be a very large site, shown on the old image above.

Behind the main factory buildings, demolition took place more than a decade ago to clear the rest of this part of the site, back to the Wigginton Road entrance. (Wigginton Road is indicated by a line of trees in the top left of the image above.) This large site was then known as Nestlé South — as Nestlé retained more modern buildings to the north.

The cleared area behind the main factory buildings is now known as Cocoa West, and a planning application for its redevelopment has recently been approved.

This is an important development — the future of a place so significant in the history of this city I call home — and I appreciated having some free time to focus on it again — so let’s continue the journey, with photos taken earlier this month.

We start where the previous page ended, by the arch of the bridge that carried Haxby Road over the railway line in times past. We were looking up from it, at the factory buildings, but now stay at its level, down in the cutting between roads.

Curved brick-built railway bridge viewed from ground level

Haxby Road bridge over the cycle track (former railway line), 12 Dec 2021

What was a railway line has for some decades been a cycle track.

There are so many of these brick-built bridges curving across former railway lines. Easier to appreciate them now, passing under them on two wheels or on foot. As is often the case, this one is graffiti-covered. It doesn’t bother me at all, personally, down here under the curve of the bridges, I like the creativity of it, the bright bursts of colour.

Graffiti on brickwork, various, including AND THEY KEEP ON WALKIN...'

Graffiti, Haxby Road bridge, 12 Dec 2021


So let’s keep on doing that. Passing under the arch of the bridge, and coming out into the late afternoon sunlight, we pass one end of the old factory buildings previously discussed, here viewed through trees.

Windowless factory, sunlit, through tree branches

Old factory – Cocoa Works -from the cycle track

The trees alongside this former railway line have grown a lot since the trains ran through here. This section to the south of the old factory site is a tree-shaded green tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians, and a much-appreciated and well-used link between Haxby Road and Wigginton Road.

We approach the curved brick bridge carrying Wigginton Road over what used to be a railway line.

Tarmac path with fallen leaves, brick arch of railway bridge in distance

Cycle track, approaching Wigginton Road, December 2021

Here, on the section of track near Wigginton Road, the factory had its own stop, Rowntree Halt. I was pleased to find some images, and even a film, from the days when the trains ran down here.

Train approaching platform, railway bridge arch from previous photo in background

Passenger train approaching Rowntree Halt, late 1980s. Still from BFI film.

There was also a line in to the factory site, pictured here. (There are a couple more images of the line and platform at the bottom of this page too, and a nice photo and more information on this page.)

As we get to the bridge, on a winter afternoon, the sunlight is so low, but let’s hope there’s enough left to illuminate and illustrate ‘Cocoa West’ …

Sunlight through curve of brick-built bridge, blue metal sculpture beyond

Cycle track and bridge, Wigginton Road, 12 Dec 2021

We take a right turn here just before the bridge, and it takes us on a short section of cycle path through more trees, passing one of the old factory clocks, and to the Wigginton Road entrance to what used to be the other part of the old factory site.

View along road to factory gates with buildings on horizon

Cocoa West, Wigginton Road, 12 Dec 2021

It’s a very large site, the size perhaps not clear from the image above.

Most of its buildings were cleared some years back. On this side, one small gatehouse remains, to remind us of the factory with such a long history.

Small gatehouse building with cleared site behind, old factory building on horizon

By the entrance to the old factory site, Wigginton Rd

In the background are the old factory buildings visited on the previous page.

In late afternoon sun back in December 2009 I took photos from this Wigginton Road entrance as the range of buildings on this side of the site were being demolished.

Demolition of former factory buildings, from Wigginton Rd, Dec 2009

Demolition of former factory buildings, from Wigginton Rd, Dec 2009

Quite a collection of structures, different shapes and sizes. What a confectionery manufacturer needed back then, and doesn’t need now.

Demolition of former factory buildings, from Wigginton Rd, Dec 2009

Demolition of former factory buildings, from Wigginton Rd, Dec 2009

Brick factory building in late afternoon sun

Melangeur block before demolition, Dec 2009

This month, so many years on from the demolition pictured above, a planning application  has been approved for housing development here. The Cocoa West development was approved at a recent planning committee meeting. Not just approved, but welcomed:

Councillor Michael Pavlovic said: “It really is heartening to hear of an application that ticks quite so many boxes – it’s not something this committee is used to from developers.”

The planning application documents state:

Our vision is for Cocoa West to become an uplifting and sustainable neighbourhood, with productive, ecologically rich landscapes and crafted architecture that respects the site’s heritage and celebrates its legacy

— and include images of how it will look:

Mixed development of apartment blocks and smaller scale housing

Image from plans for Cocoa West (ref 21/01371/FULM)

A new link will be made to the cycle track/former railway line (shown on the right of the image above).

This place has been a long-running thread through these York Stories pages. I don’t have close personal family connection to the factory, and probably didn’t appreciate the Rowntree approach, and its legacy, when I was younger, as much as I should have done, but have appreciated it more in more recent years. Over the years I’ve included many pages on the Rowntree factory (see all pages tagged Rowntree on this link).

Dear readers, your knowledge, insights, comments, and coffees, are welcome as always.

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories
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  1. Leaping Lamb

    Your treatise,on the Rowntree Halt location,brings back such good memory
    of my younger apprentice days,dancing at the R’tree lecture hall ,and taking my girl partner of the day,back home via Hambleton terrace,thro’ the broken fences,up and over the Wigginton bridges to Lucas Avenue.” Gee it was great,after being out late,walking my baby back home”.Thanks for the memory,from over 70 years ago!

  2. Thank-you for this post. It’s fascinating to see your photos from 2009, and Google Street View also has some poignant views of the site in full operation from Sept 2008.

    As a local resident, I feel cautiously optimistic about the new development as we’re in desperate need of more affordable family homes with outdoor space in central York (although they do look rather crammed-together in that prospective image).

  3. Deborah Roberts

    This is a case of asset stripping of the very worse kind. Damn more houses what about the jobs of every kind that were on the site. Apprentices in every trade, office and factory jobs in the thousands and all provided by and in the Quaker tradition of caring for others.
    I loath Nestle and all its done .

  4. Janis Smith

    I agree with Deborah Roberts about all the lost jobs everyone knew someone who worked at Rowntree. Hate to be a pessimist but now all I can see is all the extra traffic on Haxby Road and Wigginton Road. At least in it’s hey day it was all bikes out of the factory!

  5. Leaping lamb

    Oh those days of yore,when the cyclists FLOODED the roads at leaving times,My wife( RIP) , the cream chocolate packing,,from Haxby Rd ,merging at Clarence St with her twin sister(RIP) from the cocoa elect block.A race to get home ,for first bathing dibs,to remove the cocoa/ chocolate smell before the dance ,back at R’trees.

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